Mitchell is 15 and he loves life. He also loves basketball and Staunton High School and his mom and dad, his school and all his friends.
And they all love him right back. And when that love was shown to him recently, there was nary a dry eye in the house.
Mitchell Parmentier is developmentally challenged. But the sophomore special education student doesn’t let it bother him when it comes to getting as involved as he can in sports. As a part of the Staunton High junior varsity basketball team, he occasionally gets into games late. He’s also been the team manager for the Staunton football team.
Mitchell is part of a family that’s as sports-minded as they come. His father, Mike Parmentier, is the head football coach at Staunton. His mom, Janene, has coached volleyball at CM. Mitchell’s uncle, Joe Parmentier, is the football coach at East Alton-Wood River and was formerly a longtime basketball coach there. And his grandfather, Bill Parmentier, has been a longtime head coach and assistant coach. The sports roots in his family tree are deep.
So it’s no wonder one of Mitchell’s loves is sports.
“Mitchell had been manager on the sixth- and seventh-grade basketball teams,” said his father, Mike Parmentier. “His eighth-grade year, his coaches, Ryan McGowen and Steve Eisenbath, wanted him to play on the team. He got in towards the end of games. It meant so much to him - and to his teammates.”
Mitchell is the kind of kid everyone likes. It seems they all want to see him do well. And that’s continued on at SHS. Last season, he played for Bulldogs freshman coach B.J. Ogata and this season, he played for junior varsity coach Matt Larsen.
So much so that two weeks ago, as the regular season was drawing to a close, something happened in junior varsity games against Carlinville and Gillespie, that showed Mitchell just how much he’s admired.
In the closing minutes of each game, opposing players made sure Mitchell got a chance at rebounds - and baskets. He scored against both the Cavaliers and the Miners. And even though there were small crowds at each game, the cheers of the crowds were plenty loud.
And Mitchell smiled from ear to ear.
“The players from other teams are very supportive,” Mike Parmentier said. “He even got a steal and went down and made a layup.
“I think the other kids realize that they might take some things for granted,” Mike Parmentier said. “Things that are a big deal to Mitchell.”
Mitchell’s a sensitive kid when it comes to loyalties. A big Bruce Weber fan, he was not happy when the former Illini basketball coach was sent packing two years ago. But he’s become a fan of Weber’s Kansas State team.
When his dad’s Staunton football team made it all the way to the state championship game at Northern Illinois University, there wasn’t a single person in the joint who was happier than Mitchell.
And while his first loyalty is to Staunton, Mitchell loves his Uncle Joe’s EA-WR Oilers.
“Joe’s been great to him,” Mike said. “Last summer we went down to Wood River and watched some of the workouts. The kids were tremendous - they came over and talked with Mitchell and really made him feel welcome.”
Being on a team builds a sense of family at any level. Kids you played baseball or soccer with as a youngster are many times in your wedding photographs many years later. And at small high schools like Staunton and EA-WR, that feeling can be especially strong, since many of the same kids are on the same teams in fall, winter and spring sports. The running back who took your handoffs could be your basketball teammate in the winter and catch your throws to the plate on the baseball team come springtime.
After the final Staunton regular-season basketball game last week, Mitchell started crying when he got home and saw his dad.
“I asked what happened,” Mike Parmentier said. “He broke down and said that he was sad because the basketball season was over. He said, ‘I love it so much.’”
Mitchell needn’t worry. It will be baseball season soon, then time for football again and before he knows it, basketball season.
He’d better keep practicing that smile.